Sailor gets Bi­ble back 73 years later


After ar­riv­ing state­side fol­low­ing three years at sea dur­ing World War II, Haydn Evans left his Navy bar­racks in Wash­ing­ton state and didn’t come back for three days. He had some muchde­served par­ty­ing to do.

When he fi­nally re­turned from be­ing AWOL, he got to the naval base just in time to see his ship­mates hop­ping aboard a train bound for the East Coast. With no time to re­trieve his be­long­ings, he jumped aboard too.

Among the items left be­hind was a per­son­al­ized Bi­ble sent to him by the Forty Fort United Methodist Church. He wouldn’t see it again for 73 years. In early De­cem­ber, a fel­low vet­eran, Char­lie Webb from Hat­ties­burg, Mis­sis­sippi, who had the Bi­ble, con­tacted the church and was even­tu­ally put in touch with Evans.

“I got it back. So that was 70-some years?” Evans, 94, said re­cently. “I’m not a very re­li­gious guy, but it was nice it was re­turned to me, that he wanted me to have it back.”

A friend of Webb’s from the VFW post in Hat­ties­burg bought the Bi­ble on ebay years ago and later gave it to Webb.

Webb, 68, used to carry the Bi­ble with him in his VFW Honor Guard uni­form pocket.

One day, while flip­ping through it, he saw Evans’ name and de­cided to try to re­unite the Bi­ble with Evans’ fam­ily, un­sure if the World War II vet­eran was still alive.

“It dawned on me, I am go­ing to go on­line and try to find some fam­ily or, through the luck of God, find Mr. Evans him­self,” Webb said in a phone in­ter­view.

He had lit­tle luck search­ing on­line, so he called Evans’ church in Forty Fort. He asked the woman who an­swered if she knew of Evans or any of his fam­ily.

“She said, ‘Yeah, I had lunch with Mr. Evans yes­ter­day,’ ” Webb re­called.

Webb then made ar­range­ments to send the Bi­ble to Evans, who now lives in Wes­ley Vil­lage in Jenk­ins Twp.

After the war, Evans started work­ing as a printer at The Times Leader news­pa­per, where his fa­ther worked. He was one of the nearly 200 peo­ple who went on strike and formed The Cit­i­zens’ Voice in 1978. He re­tired in 1987.

Evans, who served aboard the USS New Jer­sey bat­tle­ship in the Pa­cific, said the re­turned Bi­ble has a sen­ti­men­tal value to him.

“I had it on the ship all dur­ing the war,” he said.

Evans said his ship sur­vived many bat­tles.

“I had a gun­ner down below me. He blew up a twinengine bomber right in front of us. If he didn’t hit it, it would have hit us,” Evans said.

After the war, Evans’ ship docked at Naval Sta­tion Bre­mer­ton in Bre­mer­ton, Wash­ing­ton, near Seat­tle, on New Year’s Eve 1946.

“The whole gang went out on lib­erty. I was a bad boy. I went AWOL, I guess you can call it. It was a cou­ple of days un­til I got back to the base,” Evans re­called. “As I got back, the guys I came home with were all com­ing out and board­ing the train to go home. I didn’t even know where the hell the bar­racks was. So I just got in line and on the train. My sea bags were left in the bar­racks, along with Bi­ble. I didn’t see it again un­til De­cem­ber.” Con­tact the writer: bkali­[email protected]­i­; 570-821-2055; @cvbobkal on Twit­ter


Haydn Evans with the Bi­ble that he had dur­ing World War II when he served aboard the USS New Jer­sey.


Haydn Evans served aboard the USS New Jer­sey dur­ing World War II.

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